Chef's Table: Allen Buhay Shines A Light On The Importance Of Supporting Local Industry
Allen started cooking professionally in California, USA when he was just 17 years old. He had spent a lot of time in the kitchen prior to this pivotal moment in time, bonding with his mom and grandmother. These two Kapampangan women taught him the basics and served as inspiration for a young Allen growing up in the Philippines.
It was in California though where he learned the importance of being ingredient-driven, basing food off of nature and local farmers. He was trained to do things ingredients first. To look at gorgeous fresh produce and then build your menu from there. From then on, his mantra became, freshness first. “I am all about putting local produce first” shares Allen. He is happy to see that more people in the Philippine food industry over time are following suit.
This chef earned his degree at Le Cordon Blue, worked at Jean-Georges, and Church & State where he spent time working under his superstar mento, Chef Walter Manzke. Years of hustling in some of the busiest kitchens honed his skills and solidified his passion for food. After further sharpening his culinary talents, at the age of 25 Allen came back to the Philippines to help Walter and Margarita Manzke along with Ana De Ocampo open the mega successful Wildlfour, which has since become a staple in the Philippine dining scene.
Learn more about chef Allen Buhay, here:
Last three courses or three course meal?
Uni, foie gras, and a fatty steak.
What do you want to be known for?
I want to be known as one of the chefs that believed that we can cook depending on the farms in the Philippines. Six years ago they all thought we were crazy to source locally. But look at where we are now! Our advantage is that we have 15 restaurants with Wildlfour so we can support certain farmers in more ways than others can.
Where do you gain most inspiration from?
My mentor Walter Manzke (who is chef-owner at Wildflour) our staff and the farmers who supply our food. I learn a lot from the staff and love to gain inspiration from them. We have built a business where we can change peoples lives, providing livelihood to more than 600 people. I love giving people a chance at something more, and hoping that we can help to improve lives. People’s personal stories give me so many ideas, from complete dishes, to new flavour combinations, or on how to use ingredients.
Favourite ingredient to cook with?
Least favourite ingredient?
Bitter flavours or gamey proteins.
What is the most challenging meal you have had to prepare?
A few years ago, Walter and I had to prepare a meal. It was the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event in Monterey Bay. We had to cook dinner for the founders of the event with Thomas Keller and Angela Pinkerton, the ex-chef of 11 Madison Park. It was two courses by us, two by Keller, and two by Pinkerton. The dinner had to be prepared in this house by the beach that didn’t have a professional kitchen (there was a makeshift kitchen in the garage in a tent that we had to deal with). It was so stressful because while we were cooking and plating while Keller and other chefs were standing right beside me, watching!
Who would you most want to cook for?
Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
An astronaut because I’ve always been interested in outer space. Or a lawyer because I like to argue.
How would you say your style is different from that of your peers?
The goal is not to be the most unique or super different but to inspire other chefs to work how we work so that we can lift farmers up in the industry. My goal is to keep promoting going local and pushing the local agriculture industry forward.
What is your definition of risk?
Risk to me is going with your gut feeling. It is totally going after what you want despite the odds.
What would be your perfect day?
It would be having a picnic outdoors, somewhere far away. Cheese, charcuterie, wine and really good friends.
Head to Wildlfour soon and try their food! To find the branch nearest you, check our their website at http://www.wildflour.com.ph/.
- Photography Marc Henrich Go & Kevin Evora